Keep your job secure: Competence in dental hygiene is often not enough

May 11, 2015
Whether you're looking for a position in private practice, community health, or corporate dentistry, the job search and process of getting hired is hard work. From start to finish, the job-hunting process can be a mental and emotional roller coaster. So after everything - the job search, the interview process, getting hired, and job training - wouldn't it be nice if automatic job security existed?

Competence in dental hygiene is often not enough

BY Joanne Jorge, RDH, CSP, BSC

Whether you're looking for a position in private practice, community health, or corporate dentistry, the job search and process of getting hired is hard work. From start to finish, the job-hunting process can be a mental and emotional roller coaster. So after everything - the job search, the interview process, getting hired, and job training - wouldn't it be nice if automatic job security existed?

Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. These days, it's not enough to just show up to work and be competent. With the rapid advancements in science and technology, the instability of the economy and employers constantly thinking about the bottom line, as well as the fierce competition from other prospects who want your job, employers and organizations require the best employees representing their business.

Here are a few suggestions that have helped people tremendously in securing a position.

Be positive

Every professional has good and bad days, and being a dental hygienist is no different. Clients show up late, there are difficult perio cases all day, you work hard to close a sale and it falls through. These difficult situations happen to everyone. It's easy to become sidetracked during these challenging times.

Instead of complaining and wishing you were somewhere else, take a moment to breathe, refocus, and get back on track through positive self-talk. Remember, you're in control of your thoughts, and you can choose to think positively or negatively, and whichever one you choose will be the one to thrive.


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Do you tell yourself that the difficult situation will last forever, or that you're not good enough? Or do you do the opposite by dealing with the challenge and setback constructively and positively?

Ideas include telling yourself "you can" instead of "you can't," changing your frame of mind to look at the challenge as a learning opportunity, or reading a positive quote or mantra. Negative people are a challenge to be around and a burden to work with, and employers will not want to keep people who are constantly negative and drag the whole team down. Positive attitude helps people get hired and secure their job!

Work ethic

Strong work ethic is defined as working hard and being diligent. Dental hygienists who have a strong work ethic take pride in being an RDH, provide the best possible treatment and service to their patients/clients, and are team players. Dental hygiene is much more than showing up to work from 9 to 5, functioning on autopilot, and running people through. Dental hygienists who display a strong work ethic come to work early to review and prepare for the day, do their job with love, care, and passion, and provide support and a helping hand to colleagues when they need assistance.

When they do not understand something or have not mastered a skill, they're eager to learn, persevere, and seek mentorship. They take their job seriously and are not satisfied with doing the bare minimum.

Strong work ethic is a reflection of one's character and shows the employer a motivated, reliable individual who is committed to the success of the team. These people stand out. Work ethic is not the same thing as competence, and it is not something learned in school. Displaying a strong work ethic is a decision to work hard and a requirement for securing a position.

Build strong relationships

Dental hygiene calls for constant interaction with people. So naturally, a sure way to secure your position is to build connections with those around you - your employer, colleagues, suppliers, clients, patients, and more. Why is this so? Because you want to be top-of-mind, and people want to work with others that they know and like. Whether a person is a new or long-time contact, take the time to build rapport and nurture the relationship - get to know them, be caring, honest, and genuine, and make yourself available.

As a result, loyalty and trust are established over time. For example, as a clinician, patients are loyal because you've established a strong connection and have helped them improve their oral health, so they trust you. Or, as a dental rep, dental offices choose to do business with you because you're honest and have taken the time to build a relationship and focus on their needs, not just getting the sale. As a dental hygienist, building strong relationships and having good interpersonal skills will provide you with the leverage you need for job security.

Continue to learn

You know that saying, "Knowledge is power." Well, it's true, and it's this ongoing, self-initiated learning that will help you secure your position. Learning should not stop once you complete your formal dental hygiene education.

Dentistry is an evolving and advancing field. What's current today may not be the case tomorrow, next week, or next year. Dental hygienists who invest in themselves professionally and seek opportunities to learn and grow send the strong message that they want to stay current. These people become assets and lucrative employees, and use their knowledge as an edge in providing the most current information, treatment, and service to their patients.

Invest in yourself

Investing in yourself involves personal development and addressing the insecurities that may be holding you back. Addressing these issues can be difficult and may take you out of your comfort zone, but it can have a positive impact on your career.

For example, do you have a fear of public speaking? Then join Toastmasters. Do you feel like your shyness or lack of interpersonal skills is holding you back professionally? Join a club and meet people! Tackling a fear such as public speaking allows you to become an effective communicator and helps you build strong connections, which are invaluable in the workplace.

Whatever your insecurities, do not let them hold you back; deal with them. Sure, it might be intimidating at first, but with practice and experience, the uncomfortable will feel more relaxed and natural. Not only will this help you secure your position, it will make you a happier person in the long run.

Leverage your strengths

One of the best ways to secure your position and set yourself apart requires no additional effort. It is something that already comes naturally to you - be yourself. This means being authentic and leveraging your strengths in the work environment.

For example, are you someone who includes everyone on the team? Do you allow each person to have a voice in order to draw out ideas and resources from all members of your team? Or are you a natural leader who enjoys mentoring others? These are just two examples of many different kinds of strengths. Find out what is unique and natural to you and show your employer the qualities you can bring to the company.

Securing your job and seeking longevity with a company is hard work and requires you to be proactive. Your goal is to stay hired. This is best done by establishing a good impression, having an edge, and making yourself indispensable. RDH

Joanne Jorge, RDH, CSP, BSc, is a registered dental hygienist from White Rock, British Columbia. She currently works in private practice, and is a professional educator and speaker for Straumann. Joanne is passionate about connecting with people, education, leadership, and improving lives. Outside of her professional career she is actively involved with the Women in Leadership Foundation's mentorship program in Vancouver. Contact her at (778) 318-7067 or [email protected].